Friday, March 15, 2024

Reflections on Faith & Politics - III -- Growing Together

  I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me, you can do nothing.  John 15:5

A very discordant social construct crept into humans' ways: the teaching that rugged individualism was noble. This construct metastasized during the U.S. "Wild West" (beginning roughly in the early 19th century.)  Caucasian individuals were given cheap or free acreages of land (taken from Native American tribes by force) to farm so as to develop the US from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.  The myth that lives on today is that these brave, honorable people "pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps" and "made America what it is today."  Politically, still, there is implicit hearkening back to how "the West was won."  It is a belief that often colors discussions about labor, immigration, and the social safety net. Not until President Obama did any U.S. leader explicitly argue that all we had accomplished was the result of very large teams of individuals taking on large development projects together that benefited everyone.

Jesus was also making this connection.  Nobody can thrive in a total vacuum.  Human mental, spiritual, and physical health is rooted in the need for strong social connections and interactions.  The "lifeblood" of a human community is the cooperation that takes place between people.  Jesus' use of the vine and branches is an accurate metaphor. Together we are all fed.  Apart from one another, apart from our life together, things do not usually go well - certainly not for a very large number of individuals - the growing homeless population being a constant example, or the implicit suggestions that keeping a gun under your pillow will keep you (and your family safe.) 

What we see happening today in politics and socially is a sundering of cooperation and togetherness. The "Make America Great Again" slogan hearkens back to an era that never was and only exists in the lie of "self-made men"-- industrialists who robbed from the poor, destitute laborers, and vulnerable migrants/ hoard and amass tremendous wealth that in God's Realm on earth would have been shared equally with everyone. 

Jesus' teaching here encourages us to see ourselves as thriving plants that grow in response to connection to spirit and life. Together, we can bring kindness, understanding, and sharing for the good of all.  



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